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Battle for final spots heats up

Pioneer and Martinborough are in pole position to meet in the Lane Penn Trophy final, but any slip-up in the last round of games in the North-South series could open the door for other teams to sneak into the decider.

Pioneer vs East Coast

Jeans St, 2.35pm [Kaleb Rowlands]

A win over East Coast will seal Pioneer’s place in next weekend’s final, but nothing is straightforward when it comes to clashes between the two clubs.

Regardless of where the teams sit on the points table, the clashes are invariably closely fought, and little separates them when the final whistle blows. East Coast coach Ritchie Robertson puts it down to the close family connections which bring the best out of the players.

Robertson’s biggest problem has been assembling a full squad for the games and has had to rely on senior reserve players to fill the void, with some playing 160 minutes. The veteran coach said he has a solid core of 12 quality players, and he can fit the others around the edges.

Pioneer coach Victor Thompson is rapt with how his team have started the season and reckons a good preseason buildup is the reason behind the good form. However, he is conscious of the threat posed by the Coasties under the coaching of the wily Robertson.

Pioneer have been the form horse and will relish playing on their home turf for the first time of the season. They will also enjoy the prospect of firm footing to play their expansive game.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Hard to go past Pioneer.

Marist vs Eketahuna

Memorial Park No2, 2.35pm
[Alistair Payne]

Any Pioneer slip-up could open the door for Eketahuna [6 points] or Marist [4 points] to sneak into the Lane Penn final.

Eketahuna have been the surprise package with a defeat of East Coast and a bonus point loss to Pioneer, whereas Marist have had a win and a loss. An Eke victory would take them to 10 or 11 points, while the best Marist can do is pull even with Pioneer on nine points.

An open, free-flowing game is on the cards, with both teams possessing talent-laden back divisions.

The experience of Wairarapa-Bush utility back Tafa Tafa and paddy Gluck at halfback or first-five, and the talented Charles Mataitai at centre and Hayden Cooper on the wing are Marist attacking threats. Fullback Nimix Baleitabuki has been a revelation for Eketahuna in the opening two rounds.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Marist to sneak home with a bonus point victory.

Greytown vs Martinborough

Greytown, 2.35pm [Chris Jefferies]

Martinborough will go in as warm favourites on the back of their two wins, including a gutsy defeat of 2022 premier champions Carterton in the wet last weekend.

However, little love is lost between the two southern clubs, and another close encounter could be on the cards.

Gaining parity in the forwards will be key for Martinborough to give their outstanding backline good ball to weave their magic, with the likes of former Chiefs and Highlanders playmaker Robbie Robinson, veteran utility Tipene Haira, former NRL player Keanu Dawson, and supreme finisher Nathan Hunt.

Greytown were a different side last week from the one that were dealt a 59-10 hiding by Carterton, with the return of prop Tolu Fahamokioa and hard-nosed loose forward Tana Isaac adding steel to the pack, while veteran Nick Olson brought much-needed direction at first-five.

A bonus point win and a Carterton loss could see Greytown sneak into the final, although it would be a long shot.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Martinborough to have too much firepower out wide.

Carterton vs Gladstone

Carterton, 2.35pm [Mike Wakefield]

Another local derby with a ‘healthy’ rivalry going back decades.

Carterton have been the form team of the two, with one big win and a narrow loss, and can make a second straight Lane Penn final if Martinborough fall to Greytown.

However, there is nothing more the Gladstone faithful would love than to make the final of the trophy named in honour of one of their club greats, and there is the added motivation with the passing of club stalwart Eugene Kjestrup earlier this week.

On the face of it, though, Carterton have a solid forward pack to match the Gladdy eight and should have too much firepower in the backs with prolific try scorers such as fullback Aseri Waqa, and winger Fiula Tameilau.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Carterton by a wide margin.

Wairarapa Wahine Toa
vs Allied COB

Solway Showgrounds, 1pm [Gary Hall]

Wairarapa Wahine Toa are well-placed to score their first victory in the Manawatu premier women’s championship against the struggling Allied College Old Boys.

The Wahine Toa showed plenty of fighting spirit in their 42-0 loss to competition heavyweights Kia Toa last Saturday, and will find tomorrow’s opposition significantly easier. COB have been on the end of two big hidings, conceding 218 points and failing to score in both matches.

Senior Reserves

Pioneer play East Coast, unbeaten Masterton Red Star host Marist, Carterton are at home to Gladstone, and Greytown take on Martinborough, with all games kicking off at 1pm.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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